Take-Home Tips for Addressing Healthy Eating with Your Patients


As rates of chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease continue to rise, it’s increasingly clear that conventional healthcare has failed to address the importance of lifestyle and nutrition with patients. And according to functional medicine health coach Christine Arnholt, NBC-HWC, FMCHC, it’s time for practitioners to try a fresh approach to help their patients improve and sustain a healthy diet. 

Arnholt, founder of the health coaching service, BrandCraftYOU, believes that motivating patients to change their behavior around food and reclaim their health requires more than a quick lecture on healthy eating. For patients to adhere to their prescribed lifestyle changes, practitioners must provide specific, easily digestible guidelines that allow some autonomy, and personalized ways to implement them.

“Food is way more than just something to satisfy hunger," said Arnholt. "Food is energy. Food is information. Food is connection. Food is medicine. And Food is powerful. It’s not about counting calories, being restricted, or being on a diet per se. That's just not sustainable. It’s about finding a way to eat for life that’s realistic, comfortable, doable, healthy, and, importantly, allows one to embrace a way of healthy eating for life.”

As a health coach, Arnholt said she doesn't advise her clients on their health; rather, she helps them connect to their meaning and purpose, ignite their strengths, and find realistic pathways to reach their own health goals. According to Arnholt, five key modifiable health factors—sleep, exercise, nutrition, stress, and relationships—are crucial, but nutrition is the "big kahuna" or key, when it comes to impacting a healthier lifestyle. And while most integrative and functional practitioners are highly aware of what encompasses a healthy diet, many patients are not. According to Arnholt, practitioners should be prepared to explain what healthy eating looks like and realistic ways to implement it into their lives.

To help patients achieve their nutrition and health goals and empower them to feel their best, Arnholt provides ten take-home tips that simplify the basics of nutrition and encourage better food choices. In what she calls "Chris's 10 Healthy Eating-Happy YOU Power Principles,” Arnholt lists:

1. Real Food. Eat a variety of good, quality, clean, mostly whole, unprocessed, organic. For more information on clean food and affordable options, reference the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 foods.

2. Preferably Homemade. Homemade is good because you know what you’re eating; there are no “hidden” ingredients. If you do eat out, stick to the Power Principles as best possible.

3. Combos Matter. A strategic combination of quality macros (“PFCs”—proteins, fats, carbs) and micros (“MVPs”—minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients) support optimal digestion and satiety.

4. Eat the Rainbow. And Skittles don't count! Each of the six phytonutrients color categories has specific health benefits associated with them.

5. Deliciousness. Food should taste good, and as a creative type and a creator of "food art," I also believe food should look good. And help you to feel good!

6. “No Deprivation Zone” Healthy Happy Eating. A Way of Life. The way one eats is a lifestyle. It’s not about being restrictive and depriving yourself—that’s just not a realistic approach. Sticking to these Power Principles will keep you on track and feeling good! And when you want that occasional indulgence, all good—enjoy it and ensure it’s the best quality, cleanest ingredient indulgence you can find (or make). Then get right back on track the next day/meal. It's about striving for healthy balance and consistency versus unrealistic perfrection.

7. Portions. Eat for Satisfaction and Satiety. Don’t deprive yourself, but aside from the occasional indulgence, don't overdo and stuff yourself, either.

 8. Fast. Easy. Recipes must work for a busy lifestyle—quick and easy! An exception to this is a more “strategically” lengthy meal experience like cooking on a Saturday evening with friends.

9. Mindful Eating. This is so hard in today’s “go go go” world. You’ll feel better if you can take time to relax—even if only for a few moments—and enjoy your food mindfully. Also, close the kitchen two to three hours before bedtime. Your body's digestive system and ability to optimize rebuilding and recovery will thank you.

10. Have Fun. Play. Get creative. Experiment. Explore. Embrace your personal tastes and bio-individuality/food sensitivities. Listen to your body and find a way to eat that's right for you.

Together, Arnholt said these power principles offer concrete guidelines on what foods patients should include in their diet, how to prepare meals, and portion sizes, ideas that may seem obvious to a healthcare professional but might be completely new for your patients. In addition, she explained that the guidelines can be personalized, allowing patients to retain much-needed autonomy over their lives and health.

“One of my favorite expressions when it comes to supporting health and vitality is, ‘Think Big. Start Small. Feel Better,'" said Arnholt. "I hope [integrative practitioners] are inspired to support [their] patients in taking a fresh look at their health and vitality with a beginner’s mind."

About the Expert

Christine Arnholt, NBC-HWC, FMCHC, is uniquely skilled national board-certified health and wellness coach with a passion for inspiring health and vitality by supporting people in connecting to their innate power and strengths, empowering them to feel their best. After almost 30 years in corporate America in marketing, branding, product development and guest experience leadership roles, Arnholt shifted gears to engage in what she considers her most important work yet—supporting people in creating and living their healthiest, happiest, most vitality-infused lives.

After going back to school to obtain the science behind the human body, and then going through a year-long functional medicine coaching curriculum, Arnholt launched her company, BrandCraftYOU to inspire health and vitality and empower people to feel their best.

Editors note: Let us know your take-home tips and favorite patient resources by emailing [email protected]